Since we launched almost a year ago, I’ve been amazed that OpenSolaris has not been attacked that much in the press by Sun’s competitors. Before we launched, sure, we were attacked a lot, but since we opened our code — and have been regularly releasing code ever since — the engineers and developers have been doing the talking and that conversation has been based on work, not spin. And I think the results speak for themselves, don’t you? Personally, I think this is extraordinary. People still take shots at Sun (hell, that’s sport these days), but OpenSolaris doesn’t seem to be a target — which is great. I think we are slowly earning our credibility in an understated way as we just go about our business of opening more code, implementing an open development model, and building a community.
This experience has transformed my views of marketing, engineering, communications, media, community development, corporate competitive strategies, and executive communications — all of which intersect occasionally and sometimes even overlap (which is sometimes good and sometimes bad) on any large project. Before this job I specialized in competitive PR, which means I attacked and responded a lot — just like politicians twisting facts and verbally assaulting each other every day in the media with the support of legions of irrational partisans. But I also specialized in getting sick to my stomach when we were attacked by competitors and when I was directed to attack back. I used anger to fight back, and I fought very, very hard. I hated it. It did nothing but cause pain. And I felt that the so-called positive PR benefits were trivial and fleeting at best. Dumb choice of careers if you are not into that sort of thing, I realize, but that’s long over now.
Well, I think I’ve finally detoxed because when I read this recent attack on OpenSolaris — Open Solaris a source of contention — I didn’t get sick at all. I didn’t get angry. I just laughed. True, I’m not in marketing anymore, so it’s not my job to potentially respond to these sorts of things, but for a long time I felt the attacks deeply and responded to many of them. The truth is that the vast majority of attacks in the press are so unsophisticated and extreme that they are pretty easy to undermine. The mistake many companies make is to attack back so hard that they draw yet more competitive attacks in the press. And around they go. The best attacks, on the other hand, leave no fingerprints whatsoever. Those are the ones that can absolutely be devastating to an organization. However, this particular attack in question is, well, just embarrassing for the attacker. So that’s why I laughed. I mean, read the article. How could you not laugh, right? Dennis, Ben, Stephen, James, and Stephen all dive into the specifics of why the attacker is so completely wrong. I can’t really add any substance to their arguments, so there’s not much for me to say about the article’s itself. But what interests me even more is this — what generated this attack? Why now? Did the attacker just decide to attack on the spot? Was he prompted? Was he set up? Was it planned by executive support staff or marketing and PR staff? Was an unknown third party involved and behind it? What result was expected?
I’d love to see the briefing document on this one. Wouldn’t you?